By Nichola Jones, IFRC
German Red Cross rescuers in helicopters, boats and emergency vehicles have saved hundreds of people from rising waters in Bavaria after flash-flooding hit parts of Germany and France this week.
"The extent of the devastation is incredible,” said Herbert Wiedemann, head of the Red Cross branch in Rottal Inn, Bavaria.
“The rescuers have been working through the night to free residents trapped by rising water.”
Almost 500 people were brought to safety by boat crews while 17 others were plucked from rooftops by helicopter this week.
Red Cross teams in Bavaria have also been carrying out aerial assessments by helicopter while hundreds of volunteers on the ground have been assisting with evacuations and preparing rest centres.
In areas where water levels have started to subside, the German Red Cross is focussing on supporting residents to as they begin the difficult clear-up. Equipment to help people dry out their homes was sent to 200 families in Biberach, South West Germany, from the Red Cross logistics centre in Schönefeld.
"We have seen the impact of floods in previous years and we know how long it takes to recover from flood damage,” said Frank Jörres, crisis management team leader in Bundesverband.
“The Red Cross is trying to reach those affected as quickly as possible and offer them the support they need.”
There are a further 400 drying machines on standby, ready to be sent to homes that may be affected by flooding in the coming days. The German Red Cross has also launched an appeal to support its emergency operation.
Several days of torrential rain across northern Europe has seen rivers burst their banks, swamping residential areas and wrecking roads. At least 12 people have been killed.
In France, the Red Cross has deployed 200 volunteers across 11 areas after the River Seine and its tributaries breached their banks. Volunteers helped to evacuate two care homes for the elderly and assisted with other evacuations in the Loiret area of north-central France. Red Cross teams have also been on hand with water pumps and cleaning equipment as residents began returning to their homes.
However, rivers in France are expected to swell further in the next few days as fears remain that the Seine could reach levels last seen in 1910 which left 20,000 buildings in Paris submerged.
Red Cross emergency teams across other parts of Europe that have seen rising water levels remain on standby and ready to respond.